Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Writing letters to the editor

Writing letters to the editor

Being able to keep your community group or organisation "in the spotlight" in terms of media exposure, particularly in your local area, is an ongoing task.

It is an important task for your group from both marketing and financial support standpoints as it helps to maintain your name, aims and activities in the public eye, as well as in the eyes of your members, supporters, donors, volunteers and stakeholders.

In the Media sections of the Media & Marketing Centre on the Our Community website, there are plenty of ways to utilise the media to keep your group in the forefront.

For example:
  • Talk to a journalist about a story or news tip.
  • Send out a press release.
  • Have your comments included as part of reports on an ongoing issue.
  • Offer to write an opinion piece for a newspaper.

A method that should not be underestimated in keeping your group in the spotlight is a 'Letter to the Editor' published in your local, state or national newspaper.

The Letters to the Editor pages can often be one of the most well-read and most talked-about sections of the paper.

These pages are often seen as a real litmus test for how certain issues, opinions or decisions are being received by the general readership of the paper. It tends to reflect the concerns and priorities of readers in the same way that talkback radio reflects the diverse views of the listening audience.

The Letters to the Editor page is another resource you can utilise to get your message across and get your name out to more people in the public arena.

How can you take advantage of the Letters to the Editor page?
Here are some tips to help you get your letters published:

Read up. Read the Letters pages each day and do some research on the types and styles of letters that get published. You will soon get a feel for the features of the letters that get a run, and also the language used in them.

Stick to the rules. Research the guidelines for letters to your target newspaper. If it says no more than 150-250 words by fax or e-mail then make sure you deliver it as requested and to length. Also, if it asks you to include certain identifying or contact details, do so.

Keep it clean. By all means be clever and use your words in attractive, amusing or emphatic ways. But don't be abusive or crude. It might give the Letters Editor a giggle, but it won't succeed in getting it in the paper.

Stick to the message. Write succinctly and stick to THE message. In the end it's YOUR message and that's what you should focus on in your letter. If you can make your point in 150 words and it carries all your main messages, leave it at that. Keep it short and to the point.

Break it up. Compose your letter in short paragraphs. This gives the reader visual breaks, making it easier to read and easier to understand.

Keep it newsy. Most published letters are in response to issues the newspaper has raised or to stories it has run. If there is a story or issue that is relevant to your group, respond quickly, preferably by e-mail or fax so it is there on the same day. Letters editors like to keep their pages current as possible.

Write for "aliens". Remember that even if you know all about the subject the general readership may not. Make sure you compile your letter as if the audience knows nothing, or very little, about the issue or reason you are writing.

Include contact details. Always put your full name, address, phone number, e-mail address and if relevant, your position in your organisation.

Be picky (1). Pick times when it might be easier to get a run. Over the summer; when people are on holidays; Easter; whenever less people write in and news is scarce is a good time to get your letters published.

Be picky (2). Don't write in every day, or respond to every issue, people will soon start ignoring your letters if they become too frequent. Pick your issues and make sure they are relevant to your group, its activities, values, and aims.

Revise and edit. As with any written items that are for public consumption, you need to read, re-read and revise, tighten and focus your letter on the messages you want to get across.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.